When I consider thy heavens, the work
of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou
I remember, some years ago, hearing a parishioner complain that he liked a useful sermon, one that gave him something to do during the week, and not this theological stuff that no-one could understand.
I remember a Jewish friend saying that she was sure I was too intelligent to believe all this nonsense about three Gods.
They've both got a good point.
Years and years ago I remember cracking up with laughter when it was our practice to recite the Athanasian Creed every wednesday morning..
Yet we do, as Christians, recite the Creeds weekly, if not daily. And these Creeds, and correct phrasing of them have been important enough for Christians to kill one and other about, and for. In my opinion, this is to our own great shame.
For the truth is, that The Trinity is a mystery. He is an experience.
How did all this come about ?
The disciples, and indeed all God lovers, have certain experiences of God. They experience God as being completely within themselves, as well as utterly transcendent. More intimately part of them than their own thoughts, and still completely, totally other. They felt themselves at the one time, to be possessed, and to be totally and newly free.
Their reaction was, it seems to me, to simply abandon themselves, to flow with whatever this God wished to be for them, to make Him the subject and themselves increasingly the object in any sentence about their life and existence. In other words, awe, worship, meditation, contemplative joy.
But they lived in a
Greek world. They were not irrational. And so, like
poets, they struggled to find the perfect language to
express their experience. It was all there in the
complexity and beautiful simplicity of the Hebrew in
the book of beginnings.
or, as St. John has
But to the Greek an apple was an apple, and could not at the same time be a banana. With intense curiousity the Greek mind asked, how is this, what order did it happen, is it through the Father and the Son, or through the Father then the son - is it as well or beside or separate ?
And when they had it straight in their own minds they made songs up that they sang even when they were working on the water fronts, to remind themselves of 'The Truth' - and even persecuted those who signed themselves with the sign of the Cross the wrong way.
This isn't a criticsm, for we can all become ecstatic in our minds, and enraged when others seem not to understand things the way we understand them. Yet in the context of the galaxy you see on your right, in the context of the heavens and the glory thereof, or in the beauty of a snail on the path - isn't it all just a little trivial ?
I wonder if St. Thomas had this difficulty in India - but I think not. It may be that at last the Church in the West has got this right - The word 'Trinity' expresses a mystery, a threefoldness in reality that other people, races and traditions have also noticed in more than one way, and have used different imagery to express.
We could write and read books about the Holy Trinity, we could study a famous orthodox icon, there have been libraries built lives lived in contemplation and reason.
But in the end, the Trinity is not to be understood, so much as to be loved, worshipped, adored and to be lived with.
The Trinity then, is not only a mystery, He is an invitation, and open gateway, an offering. He is inviting us to partake of his own innermost nature. To us who walk this earth is given a mind to encompass the stars, the divine spirit to indwell us and the gift to be the hands of God within the wholeness of his creation, which is the expression of his inner being.
To us is given comfort, strength, nurture, a place to put our heads, the right to speak and to love. It is also given to each of us to know at our own pace, to open to each other and to our God according to our own strength.
Yes, a consideration of the Trinity does give us something practical to do during the week. To turn over and over again to the mystery of our own experience, to wonder how to form words about the way God is with us, and to love all that He is and does.
My intelligence is not offended by One being Three, nor by one being many - I see this in my own life, I see it all round me. In many different and wonderful ways.
But in the end I fall silent.
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
I know what You are like Lord,